This is supposed to be Doppo’s episode. Right from the get-go, Atsushi poses the big question that our multi-episode will hope to answer when it’s all said and done. It’s time for the yang to Dazai’s yin to shine. Unfortunately, Bungou Stray Dogs’ storytelling woes end up overshadowing everything instead. This week’s episode feels rushed. The flow is haphazard. We briskly move from scene to scene, and you could argue that this is due to the urgency of the situation surrounding the case, but I can’t buy that excuse when Bungou Stray Dogs repeatedly wastes way too many valuable minutes on Dazai and his stupid antics. As I’ve said before, I dislike having to recap an episode’s plot events, but this time, it helps to illustrate what I mean by Bungou Stray Dog’s storytelling woes. We start off with a serial abduction case. Visitors to Yokohama have been disappearing left and right, and they haven’t had any leads until now when an anonymous tip points them towards an abandoned hospital. But first, Doppo and company meet with an informant, some kid who happens to be a “cyber network warrior.” As an aside, I thought this show took place in the 1920s or 30s, but we must be in the present day since we now have hackers, servers and all that jazz. In any case, the informant tells our heroes that the anonymous tipster refers to himself as the Azure Messenger. Okay…
Next, everyone heads to the abandoned hospital, where they find several victims entrapped in devices meant to slowly torture and kill them. First, a beautiful girl is stuck in a tank that is rapidly filling up with water. After saving her, Dazai can’t help but comment on her sexiness. This is what I’m talking about; the dramatic shifts in tone really don’t sit well with me whatsoever. At the start of the episode, we got some lame bit where Dazai had bitten into a poisonous mushroom, and as a result, the guy was tripping balls. Doppo screamed at him, and Atsushi got to make dumb faces on the side. Unfortunately, none of this was funny. I’m not even saying I’m offended; I’ve gotten past the whole “suicide as a joke” thing. But you gotta at least be funny, and Bungou Stray Dogs keeps dropping the ball on that front. Gonna investigate a serial abduction case? First, here’s some wacky Dazai antics! Just saved a girl from being drowned? Look, Dazai’s gonna say something stupid about a girl who almost died! I wish Bungou Stray Dogs would just stick to one thing. Do you want silly banter between some hot-looking guys? Then do that. Or do you instead want a serious story involving a detective agency, a fearsome mafia, and other dangerous people? Then do that! But you can’t have both. When you try to have both, well, you get this…
Anyway, the saved girl is oddly lucid enough to tell them that the rest of the victims are nearby. Doppo and company quickly come across several men stuck in a chamber. This time, however, the chamber is rapidly filling up with poisonous gas. Unluckily for these men, they’re not an attractive, slim-figured girl in her mid-twenties. As a result, Doppo doesn’t manage to save them. Somehow, this incident is recorded by a nearby camera, and Doppo’s failure becomes tomorrow’s news. They talk to the kidnapped girl, who is of course all smiles. I’d personally be a bit shaken if I was in her shoes, but who knows? Maybe she’s more involved in this than she lets on. We then learn, however, that she had stayed over at Dazai’s place, and again, I could’ve done without this. Atsushi proceeds to have nothing to contribute to the story but silly faces. Then Dazai goes, “Oh, she seems like someone who would commit a double suicide with me.” That’s kind of a fucked up thing to say. More than anything, it just wastes valuable time. But let’s get back to the case. Eventually, Doppo deduces that the taxi driver is the abductor. What are his motives? Apparently, he was convinced by some black market organ dealing group to do the dirty deed. He kidnaps people, then hands them off to the organization.
So then what’s up with the torture house fun time? What’s up with the girl being drowned in a tank like some fish? Oh hey, isn’t our informant obsessed with a fish when we met him? Moving on, what’s up with the chamber of poison gas a la Auschwitz? How is any of this conducive to harvesting organs? We’ll get to that in a moment, because all of a sudden, Port Mafia guys are shooting up the taxi car. It turns out our taxi driver had abducted one of their members, so they’re here to enact justice. Akutagawa even shows up briefly to do battle with Doppo, then… well, shit, he just conveniently exits stage right. It’s like the show has to remind you that Akutagawa is still the final boss, because otherwise, the fight between him and Doppo just feel so pointless. It’s short, so you can’t even sit back and enjoy the action. And beyond that, it doesn’t say much other than that the Port Mafia will be the wild card in the mix while our heroes continue to go after the real culprit behind the abductions. And why did Akutagawa just get up and leave? Because he heard sirens in the distance. Talk about lame. I don’t have a problem with him making his escape, but Bungou Stray Dogs really couldn’t cook up a better excuse than that? Like everything in this week’s episode, the encounter just feels so rushed and half-assed. Boom, we fight, boom, I’m out. My reaction is only, “What?”
But we’re not done yet! After all that excitement, the trail eventually leads Doppo to a building where the Azure King, a notorious terrorist, had blown himself up in the past. Wait, what? A terrorist bomber? Yeah. The Azure King. Our heroes proceed to stand still in an abandoned building and drop exposition. I always love that. So Doppo had discovered the Azure King’s hideout. With nowhere to run, our terrorist decided to commit suicide, and no, there are no jokes this time. In the process, the Azure King also took out five policemen with him, including the informant’s dad. Doppo has a strong sense of justice. Most people in his shoes wouldn’t take responsibility for the deaths of those five policemen, but the guy nevertheless takes it upon himself to act as a surrogate father to the informant. Let’s just hope Taguchi, our “cyber network warrior,” doesn’t turn out to be the Azure Messenger in some some of misguided revenge quest. And that leads us right to the cliffhanger. The supposed organ harvesting group is nowhere to be found, but our heroes find a mission from the Azure Messenger himself (or herself). In next week’s episode, they will have to disarm a bomb or lots of people will die! Hoo boy. So… uh, I’m assuming there was never an organ harvesting group? That was just a cover to fool the dumb taxi driver, right? Instead, our Azure Messenger was really hatching some convoluted plan to embarrass Doppo, right?
Phew, that does it for this week’s episode. As you can see, there’s a lot of information here to absorb. This Doppo-centric arc has a lot of moving pieces, and we’re not even done yet. We went from some serial abduction case to a terrorist bomber. And oh yeah, the Port Mafia is thrown into the mix, though we are currently unclear as to why the Azure Messenger had targeted one of their members. Hey, I’ve got no problems with a story with so many twists and turns. The problem is that they tried to squeeze all of this into one episode. Of course, I understand that Bones is operating under several constraints, and time being one of them. They can’t afford to stretch this arc out into more episodes. That’s fine, but then why are we wasting so much time with the unfunny jokes? The brief fight with Akutagawa doesn’t even bother me all that much. The rushed pacing can be excused, and quite honestly even used to the story’s advantage if they had edited the episode in a way as to induce a 24-esque level of urgency. But over and over again, Bungou Stray Dogs’ light-hearted side doesn’t add anything. Instead, it’s the spoiler in the mix. It’s the black jellybean in the bag. I’ll be sitting here, getting immersed in the investigation, then all of a sudden, Atsushi makes one of his dumb faces, and Dazai hits on some poor woman. I can’t help but be pulled out of the viewing experience immediately. Bungou Stray Dogs’ failed attempts at humor takes up valuable runtime that could’ve been better utilized elsewhere.
Let’s hope next week’s episode can pull together some sort of satisfying conclusion to the arc.